About the only thing missing from the formula is an Annie Leibovitz photo spread. But then, viewers are likely to associate the ever-present subjects of Speed's paintings -- pale-skinned, wise-eyed redheads in the tradition of, say, Cate Blanchett's Elizabeth -- with the artist herself. The public will fill in the blanks if given enough start-up ammunition. But when a viewer writes, "How do you develop your imagery?" and Speed answers, in her pensive, swayback cursive, "For me, the best place for finding the pictures in my head is the bathtub. Driving around out in the big empty parts of Texas and Mexico also works...then the pictures will sneak up from behind," the gaps to fill are no longer threatening. You feel as though you've just had a pleasantly thorough phone conversation with her.
It's hard not to walk back through the show with new eyes after such connections are made and such soundbites and tangibles are provided. And in this context, it's hard to ignore that the charismatic Speed, if not painting, is far more deserving of widespread appreciation than some of our other so-called artists and their art.